Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thank you, Tunisia. Now it's our turn

I don’t know if the political elite truly believe that Kenyans are stupid, or whether they are too arrogant and self-important to care about what the people who voted them into office think about them.

Kenya is truly unique in that it is a dictatorship pretending to be a democracy, except that in the Kenyan case, it is not one man ruling over the majority, but a bunch of men and a few women in Parliament, who decide the fate of Kenyans. In 2002, when Daniel arap Moi was vacating office, we were damn sure that getting rid of  Moi would get rid of the Moi in every Kenyan politician. Weren't we "the most optimistic people on earth?"

Nearly 10 years have passed, and I am seeing Moi clones everywhere. Our parliamentarians decide which Kenyan lives, which one dies, which one is jailed, which one is acquitted, which one gets State funding, which one doesn’t. As Nation columnist Charles Onyango-Obbo noted recently, “One of the things that distinguishes the Kenyan Parliament is that it has actually hijacked a lot of power from the Executive and even the courts.”

What makes our parliamentarians even more extraordinary is that, unlike neighbouring countries, such as Uganda or Tanzania, they are the least ideological, which, according to Onyango-Obbo, explains why there has been no full-scale rebellion or revolution in this country.’’ But if one places one’s ear close to the ground, one might hear an army approaching, leading to the start of such a rebellion.

As I write this, Kenyans from all walks of life are gathering their resources to present a petition against the government’s proposal to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to use taxpayers’ money to pay the legal fees of the six suspects accused of committing crimes against humanity. The idea is to use all means possible to get at least one million Kenyans to sign the petition before it is presented to the government and the international community in order to “place the Kenya Government on legal notice for any action which is contrary to Kenya’s sovereignty and its Constitution, and in breach of international obligations”. The petition seeks to underscore the fact that withdrawing from the ICC process and using public money to pay the legal fees of the suspects is retrogressive, and could have wider consequences that will undermine the already fragile situation in the country.

It is an attempt to register ordinary Kenyans’ anger at “the embezzling and diversion of the meagre resources which are intended to alleviate the situation of the post-election IDPs” and the “politicisation of a grave human rights issue”. One of the specific immediate demands of the petition is that President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga unambiguously state their position concerning the Rome Statute and the ICC and follow it through with concrete actions. At this critical point in our nation’s history, let the two principals make known their views and not hide behind officialdom to protect the rights of not just those who lost their family members and who were raped or displaced during the mayhem of 2007/8, but also the rights of all Kenyans, rights that are now enshrined in the new Constitution.

At the very least, the President and Prime Minister should sack the five senior civil servants who have been named as suspects by the chief prosecutor at the ICC. They can call it “stepping aside” if they like, but those five suspects should not be allowed to control public funds by virtue of their position, and should be denied access to any privileges paid for by the taxpayer. In addition, for the sake of transparency, the government should once and for all make public the findings of the Waki Commission. Failure to do all of the above may lead Kenyans to take actions that will forcibly remove all those parliamentarians who are cynically disregarding the Constitution, international law and their mandate as elected MPs.

A coup d’etat in the making? Perhaps.

What is clear is that Kenyans are fed up with the business-as-usual attitude of our parliamentarians, and are not willing to be hoodwinked any more. I say join this campaign by writing to or visit!/pages/One-Million-Kenyan-Citizens-say-YES-to-ICC/118431851563606

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